posted by David Tobaru Obermiller
A review of Performing Embodied Histories: Colonialism, Gender, and Okinawa in Modern Japan, by Valerie Holshouser Barske.
Divided into six chapters with an Epilogue and Appendix, Valerie Barske’s dissertation examines Okinawa’s postwar history, identity formation, and the politicization of culture and gender through the lens of Okinawan performance culture.
Providing a comprehensive historiography of both Japanese and English secondary sources, the first chapter emphasizes the methodological and theoretical dispositions of the dissertation. A hybridization of cultural history and...
posted by Devin Fitzgerald
A review of the Harvard Yenching Library Rare Books Collection, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA.
The Harvard-Yenching Library holds more than 1.3 million volumes. This review won’t bore readers with the details of each collection, which are introduced on the library’s website. Instead, my aim is to convince the reader to consider a visit to the library and its world-class rare book collection. Although most of the library’s holdings are listed in fully searchable catalogs, there are many discoveries awaiting even cursory exploration. Our persisting ignorance of the Harvard-Yenching...
posted by Roberta Strippoli
A review of Another Tale of the Heike: An Examination of the Engyōbon Heike monogatari, by Amy Christine Franks.
Amy Franks’s meticulously researched and persuasively written dissertation is a study of the Engyōbon, a lesser-known but extremely important variant of the Heike monogatari (The Tale of the Heike, 13th century). Copied from a manuscript dated 1309 (the second year of the Engyō era), the Engyōbon Heike monogatari is widely regarded as the oldest existing Heike text. The manuscript was produced at Negoroji, a complex of Buddhist temples on Mt. Kōya, headquarters of the Shingon...
posted by Judit Erika Magyar
A review of Modern Japanese Political History Materials, National Diet Library, Tokyo and Special Collections Room, Waseda University Library, Tokyo.
The research I have been conducting in Tokyo for the past 2.5 years kept me busy in primarily two locations: the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room in the National Diet Library at Tokyo (NDL) and the Special Collections Room in the Waseda University Library.
Ed. Note: Please also see Kelly Hammond’s “Reflections on 5 collections in Japan essential for China scholars” for discussions on the National Diet Library and...
posted by William Hedberg
A review of A Heteroglossic Theory of Proto-Genbun Itchi in Edo and Early Meiji Writings, by Kelly J. Hansen.
Historians and historiographers of modern Japanese literature have long debated the fraught relationship between “reality” and the language in which it is inevitably encoded and described. A teleological view of literary modernity often presumes a clean break between ossified tradition and modern innovation. Accordingly, analyses of the various calls for mimesis and linguistic transparency subsumed under the name genbun itchi have largely focused on the Meiji era as a period of such...
posted by Matthew Fraleigh
A review of “The Peony Lantern” and Fantastic Tales in Late Imperial China and Tokugawa Japan: Local History, Religion, and Gender, by Fumiko Jōo.
On a festival night one year in mid-fourteenth century Ningbo, a young student glimpses a beautiful woman walking along the street in the company of a girl bearing a peony-adorned lantern. He invites the woman to his home and a passionate relationship ensues, but not long thereafter, the woman is revealed to be a ghost. Though the student enlists the protective intervention of spiritual authorities, he remains inexorably drawn to the ghostly...
posted by William Fleming
A review of Fantasies of the Real: Illustrated Gazetteers in Early Modern Japan, by Robert Dale Goree.
Robert Goree’s dissertation offers a comprehensive study of meisho zue, the illustrated guides to “famous places” (meisho) that arose in late eighteenth-century Japan and were published in great numbers well into the nineteenth century. These encyclopedic catalogs of culturally significant sites were disseminated to a wide, diverse readership and operated in tandem with early modern tourism, antiquarianism, cartography, literati culture, and an increasingly sophisticated publishing...
posted by Seth Jacobowitz
A review of Gaijin: Cultural Representations through Manga, 1930s-1950s, by Karl Ian Uy Cheng Chua.
Karl Chua’s dissertation makes an important contribution at the intersection of studies of modern Japanese imperialism and print culture. As the title suggests, the dissertation is an examination in Japanese comics of “gaijin,” broadly meaning both foreigners and non-Japanese persons. The manga and related materials he investigates come almost exclusively from a single source, Kodansha’s magazine Shōnen kurabu (Boys Club), which enjoyed almost a half-century long print run from 1914 until...
posted by Jolyon Baraka Thomas
A review of the Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, National Archives and Records Administration. College Park, MD, United States
American researchers specializing in Asian topics often focus our attention on gathering materials in Asian languages that are indispensable for our research. Such Asian sources are irreplaceable, but there are also vast repositories of information related to Asia available closer to home that can be equally useful. As one example, the Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II provide unique insight...
posted by Charlotte Eubanks
A review of A Reception History of the Man’yōshū, by Fusae Ekida.
Most readers of this review will be familiar with the Man’yōshū 万葉集 (c. 785), the oldest and largest extant collection of Japanese-language poetry, from excerpts in anthologies of classical Japanese literature, where the title is typically glossed as “Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves,” and so will find Ekida’s preferred translation (“Collection for Ten Thousand Generations”) to be new. Fusae Ekida’s embrace of this alternate titular gloss indicates two important things about her dissertation. First, it...
posted by Hiromu Nagahara
A review of Creating Mass Culture in Interwar Japan, by Amy Bliss Marshall.
Amy Marshall’s dissertation sheds much-needed light on the birth and development of what were arguably the two most important mass journals in mid-twentieth century Japan, Kingu (King) and Ie no hikari (Light of the Home). The dissertation traces the growing popularity of these two journals from the time of their first publication in 1925 through the tumultuous wartime decades of the 1930s and ’40s, a period during which each journal came to boast a monthly circulation of over one million. As Marshall argues,...
posted by Judit Erika Magyar
A review of Sarin Traces: Memory Texts and Practices in Postwar Japan, 1995-2010, by Mark Aaron Pendleton.
Mark Pendleton’s dissertation throws light on the aftermath of the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing that came to be known generally as the Aum Shinrikyo Tokyo gas attack. Having escaped becoming a victim only by a few minutes in 1995, his personal connection to the event strengthens his narrative of life-writing. As a primary focus, he opted for examining how the incident is culturally represented in memory texts and practices. The primary materials include life narratives of the victims,...
posted by Jolyon Baraka Thomas
A review of the Gordon W. Prange Collection, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, United States of America.
The Gordon W. Prange Collection at the University of Maryland in College Park is a rich source of material from the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945–1952). It consists of virtually every book, magazine, and pamphlet that was published, censored, or suppressed by the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) under the aegis of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). Occupation policy was influenced by competing political factions and subject to change over time, but one of...
posted by Elisheva Perelman
Science for God’s Sake: Three Archival Reviews
- Salvation Army Research Room (救世軍研究室), Tokyo, Japan [website]
- Archives of the Episcopal Church, Austin, Texas, United States [website]
- Salvation Army National Archives and Research Center, Alexandria, Virginia, United States [Library of Congress listing]
For my dissertation, The Exponent of Breath: The Role of Foreign Evangelists in Combating Japan’s Tuberculosis Epidemic in the Early Twentieth Century (University of California, Berkeley 2011), I had the pleasure of pursuing research at the far-flung archives of a number of...
posted by Kristopher Kersey
A review of the Tokyo National Museum Research and Information Center (東京国立博物館資料館), Tokyo, Japan.
I was first introduced to the Resource and Information Center of the Tokyo National Museum shortly after beginning graduate school. Most recently I have been visiting the Center to conduct dissertation research on several handscrolls 絵巻物 associated with the Emperor Go-Shirakawa 後白河 (1127-1192). The Center is located within the Tokyo National Museum grounds, but despite the high volume of museum-goers, the Center remains remarkably quiet. I always have found it to be a...